It's a harsh winter on the streets
Share this article:
Meet brothers Sam and David Sello. They are homeless and live on the streets of Joburg’s central business district.
Just like thousands of other South Africans, the Sello brothers left home in the Eastern Cape in hope of finding jobs in Joburg.
However without an eduction (neither passed matric) it’s been an uphill battle for them to find a well paid job in Joburg.
Every morning at 6.30, the two head over to Park Station where they help passengers to carry their bags.
Having lived in the city for the past three years, Sam, 26 and David, 28 have also learnt a fair bit about Joburg’s city centre. So they also act as tour guides and show people around.
On a good day, Sam and David say they earn a mere R50. That money goes towards food, and the cigarettes they cannot live without.
With winter creeping in, the Sello brothers say they are saving money for a warm blanket so that they don’t feel so cold at night.
In the past week night temperatures have dropped – on occasion to as low as -3ºC in the early morning.
Sam and David sleep on the corner of Polly and Kerk Street outside a travel agency.
Their bed is made up from a few scrap boxes, they use a trolley as their headboard and share a single blanket.
Sam says it gets bitterly cold in the early hours and that it is impossible to fall asleep especially during winter.
“The cold is too severe for us to fall asleep, so we never ever get a good night’s rest,” he says.
But there is something else that keeps them awake.
“Rats run up and down the streets and so we get woken up when they get into our bed.”
David tells me that this weather is nothing compared with when it rains.
“You will cry if you have to sleep on the streets when it’s raining,” he tells me. “We have to cover ourselves with plastic bags so that we don’t get completely wet. It’s terrible.”
Sam says he has to visit the hospital every so often as he gets very sick from sleeping outside.
“The doctors tell me that I can die if I continue sleeping outside, but there’s nothing I can do.”
Sam and David look after each other, especially during winter.
“When I make more money than Sam then I will buy the food or vice versa.
“Even if anyone fights with us on the streets we have each other’s backs.”
During the cold winter nights, Sam and David say they hold each other to keep warm.
“There’s nothing else we can do. It doesn’t make a big difference but it helps a little.”
The Sello brothers say that all they want is a roof over their heads and some food in their stomachs.
“It’s a tough life,” says David.
“You have to be very brave to survive out here.
“Every day myself and my brother pray to God that he helps us.”
“Because we believe in God, we have faith that things will change.”
On Pritchard Street we meet a street sweeper called Mcebise Dlamini. The 19-year-old has worked as a street sweeper for the past three years in the city.
With no gloves and no warm jacket, Dlamini gets on with trying to make the city look clean for the next day. He says his job becomes extra hard during winter as his hands go numb.
“It’s very tough working during winter, but somebody has got to do the job,” he says.
“There’s no taking breaks or anything. I have to make sure the street is clean by 4am when I knock off.”
Aside from it being very cold, Dlamini says it is also very dangerous to work such late hours.
LEARNING TO FIGHT
“People try their luck stealing your clothes or if you have a cellphone or money on you. I’ve got used to it and have learned to fight back.”
Dlamini says his beanie keeps his ears slightly warm, but doesn’t do a proper job.
“These are the only warm clothes I have so I just have to make do.”
Another person that works in the cold throughout the night is Sam Diseko. Diseko works as a car guard on Pritchard Street.
He says he has been working double shifts for the past two weeks so that he can raise enough money to see his son this weekend.
“It’s really cold every night but I can’t let that get in the way of earning my money. I have to eat and I am trying to save money so I can go home this weekend.”
Sam comes from Orange Farm and tries to go home whenever possible to visit his wife and son.
This weekend is especially important as he hasn’t seen his family in a while.
“Sometimes I work a double shift and hardly earn anything though. Many people just drive away without giving me a cent, it’s not easy.”
During winter, Diseko says McDonald’s is kind enough to give him coffee and food during the evenings to keep him warm.
“They also allow me to sit inside for a bit when it gets really cold, they are really good to me.”
Diseko says he also has to save extra money for medication during winter as he always gets sick.
“I always get the flu because I am not warm enough.
“I take pills and eventually I get better.
“But I have to work through the flu, there is no stopping otherwise I will starve.”